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Nokia innovation award sees little innovation

Especially if snipers are thin on the ground

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Nokia's Calling All Innovators competition is listing finalists again, but while last time saw dancing games and Fair Trade guides, this year we've got sniper-safe routing and home automation.

This time around the competition saw 1700 entries, which have been whittled down to 12 finalists looking for a share of the additional $100,000 in prize money. This takes the total up to quarter of a million dollars. Last time around the focus was on applications to improve the quality of life, but this time the focus is on widgets, Flash and maps, rather than native Symbian applications.

The widgets section has the usual image-sharing and news-feed applications, including a Chinese restaurant guide which looked interesting until we realised it was a guide to restaurants in China: probably very helpful with its 7.5 million restaurant reviews, but not enormously innovative in terms of mobile applications.

The Flash section is little better: a Reuters feed and finance tracking don't sound like the kind of thing that's going to lure customers away from the iPhone.

Apps for emerging markets include a software credit-card terminal, which is interesting, even if the idea is somewhat old (your correspondent developed just such a thing back in 2002). Then there's a Bluetooth home-automation application and a job-listing service aimed at rural China.

Applications based on Maps contains the most interesting application, once one gets past a couple of social location-based apps: the aforementioned sniper-avoidance software. Ground Guidance isn't just designed to plot routes that avoid exposing oneself to sniper fire, it can also plot paths avoiding lakes, inclines and other hazards beyond the ken of road-based routing applications. Ground Guidance could, literally, be a lifesaver application for the S60, if it hadn't been available on Windows Mobile for a while now.

So the most innovative application we could find is a port from Windows Mobile, which bodes badly for Nokia in a world where mobile platforms are increasingly judged by the applications they support. We'll have to wait until the end of the month to see who gets a share of the prize, along with the much-sought-after Premium Placement in the Ovi store. ®

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